Charles Bradley’s story is extraordinary. A peripatetic life, abandoned by his mother as a baby only to reunite with her much later in his life. Working any number of mundane low paid jobs, often homeless and earning a living as a James Brown tribute act, success has come very late in life.
His story has been told brilliantly in the “Soul Of America” documentary. Now signed to the same Daptone label as the late great Sharon Jones, Bradley has recorded a series of classic soul albums, his debut released at the ripe old age of 61.
But life is catching up with Charles. In recent years his mother has died and last year, he cancelled a bunch of UK shows after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. One can only keep our fingers crossed.
In the meantime, this extraordinary Black Sabbath cover is a must see and hear. Recorded on 1972’s “IV” LP, the song was based on a Tony Iommi piano riff. Never performed live at the time by Sabbath, it was eventually covered by Ozzy and his daughter Kelly in his post reality show days.
Charles’s version is transformative. He turns the song around, re-orientating it from a relationship gone bad to a eulogy for his dead mother. The simpatico soul backing works perfectly and it is a tour de force.
Here’s a couple of versions:
Firstly, the video is wordless single shot focus on Bradley. An end of days recording, resonating like that other great late career cover, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash.
The second is a live performance that is raw and wonderful. You can sense Bradley’s pain at his loss and lives hard lived.
Here’s the original by the Sabbs. It takes pride of place as pretty much the only ballad in their repertoire and sits alongside much heavier material in the middle of the classic run of Sabbath LPs, from their debut until “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”.
It is the title track of Bradley’s latest album. Here’s hoping in post Obamacare America that he gets the medical attention that sadly Sharon Jones struggled to obtain.